Tolerance and acceptance are the absolute base level of human love, not the pinnacle.

Tolerance and acceptance allow room for exploration, change and evolution. It's vital that we see the difference between using tolerance and acceptance as a basis for understanding at a person-to-person level and how we use them at the level of social cohesion and change. We must have the courage to both hear and engage where change is needed and remain willing to stand firm in the face of pressure where necessary when it bears down.

Talking over coffee

LOVE: Love doesn't require you agree with everyone but it does mean listening and treating them with respect, says Ann Wojczuk. listening PICTURE: Joshua Ness/Unsplash

 

"Love is so much more that 'accepting' someone's opinion or presence in our lives that we don't agree with, or 'tolerating' someone who lives or behaves differently. Love is so much more than spraying someone with our own intolerance or haranguing and bullying those who don't share our ideas or ways. Love allows us to hear and engage with others as people, not opinions!"

Tolerance and acceptance don't require me or you to agree with someone else's opinion. They don't require me to do what someone else does. I offer you the same parameters I expect of you, as Jesus tells me to in Matthew 7:12 - "Do to others as you would have them do to you". Here's the thing, though - l might want that same courtesy but you have the freedom to choose whether you will give it. My strength and gift to others lies in my internal values and choices and my outward actions. They are never defined by someone else, though we can influence each other. 

We ought to be able to share thoughts and opinions with others in a respectful space - even if those opinions are not shared or even (gasp) popular!

Tolerance and acceptance are helpful at a personal level but we also must have the courage and wisdom to assess changes at a broader level socially, environmentally and spiritually. Every action creates a reaction and a present and future outcome.

Love is so much more that 'accepting' someone's opinion or presence in our lives that we don't agree with, or 'tolerating' someone who lives or behaves differently. Love is so much more than spraying someone with our own intolerance or haranguing and bullying those who don't share our ideas or ways. Love allows us to hear and engage with others as people, not opinions!

This is the character of love - "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." - I Corinthians 13:4-7.

Love encourages me to hear and consider and share and explore with other humans. It doesn't require me to agree, it requires me to hear and respect and persevere and love and seek truth. Love of others requires me to hear them and allow time for their voices to speak to my own soul. Love of myself requires me to value my own heart and mind in this process, and be prepared to follow through with my convictions. Love of God requires me to hear and acknowledge His principal Creator's wisdom in all things. He has set the patterns, freedoms and boundaries for love and I choose to live within the Designer's blueprint.

This is how I live. I don't do it perfectly and that's OK. I choose to give thought and time and love to my living, and to the world in all its diversity and wonder. My opinions are formed. Sometimes they change. Sometimes they solidify. I stand firmly where I can stand firmly and always I seek to love.

This capacity to love, and how we use it, is God's greatest gift to us and for us. It is our greatest freedom and our highest choice.